BAHAMAS Telecommunications Company has assured the public that it does not “disengage staff for trite or unjustifiable reasons” as it gave further details for the dismissal of a senior manager whose immediate reinstatement her union has demanded.
The company also reassured the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union (BCPMU) that it values their working relations and recognises the union’s role as the representatives of BTC employees. However, it warned of reports coming from certain quarters of the “possibility of illegal industrial action”, and reminded the union of the protocols both sides have to follow in an industrial
dispute. However, should those protocols be broken by the union, said BTC, it will “address with utmost swiftness and seriousness, any unlawful industrial activities, as it seeks to ensure that provision of services to customers remain the company’s paramount concern.”
Following a demonstration outside BTC’s head office yesterday afternoon, BTC released a statement clarifying its reasons for terminating the contract of Ms Elizabeth Thompson, their counsel and attorney-at-law for the past four and a half years. In addition to her confidential position with BTC she is also vice president of the union. Since her dismissal last week, BCPMU and its affiliate unions have made constant demands for her immediate reinstatement.
In an effort to “clarify its position” on Ms Thompson’s dismissal, BTC made a statement yesterday in which it said it had witnessed a consistent and repeated pattern of behaviour and actions by Ms Thompson that were “entirely contrary” to the fundamental interests and goals of the company.
“Decisions to disengage any staff member are always matters that are approached with the utmost level of discernment and gravity,” the statement said.
“It will not now or ever seek to disengage staff for trite or unjustifiable reasons, but rather for grave and very substantial reasons which go to the root of the employment relationship.”
The company said that in Ms Thompson’s capacity as counsel and attorney-at-law, she was responsible not to put herself in any actual or apparent conflict of interest between the union she leads and the company for which she works.
“In one of the very numerous instances she advised the union executives to recommend that their members not sign up to a new and legitimate policy being advanced by the company, and electronically communicated that view to the entire employee group concerned,” BTC’s statement said.
“The management of the company, including senior executives, have spoken to Ms Thompson on numerous occasions to request a change of the behaviour and actions which are inconsistent with her professional role in the company, and her duties as an employee generally otherwise. BTC is satisfied that it gave Ms Thompson every opportunity to moderate her behaviour. The advice went unheeded.”
The phone company also downplayed claims that they are seeking to “dis-empower” unions.
“The company has and maintains a positive and productive relationship with the company’s union partners – the BCPOU (the non-management union) and the BCPMU (the management union),” the statement said.
“Since the BTC/CWC merger in April of last year, the company and its union partners have consulted and worked together on the voluntary separation package, the new industrial agreements, promotions and reclassifications, and a host of other initiatives of mutual benefit to the company and the union memberships.
“BTC,” said the statement, “values its relationship with its union partners and fully appreciates and embraces their role as representatives of the employee stakeholders of BTC.
BTC said it is concerned by the statements of select individuals speaking of the possibility of illegal industrial action. “The company reminds all concerned of the law and protocols in respect of union grievances and complaints and the process for addressing the same.
“The company will operate consistent with these provisions and it anticipates that the unions will similarly abide by these protocols. The company will address with utmost swiftness and seriousness, any unlawful industrial activities, as it seeks to ensure that provision of services to customers remain the company’s paramount concern,” the BTC statement said.
Yesterday, union representatives showed up at BTC’s head office on John F Kennedy Highway to continue its protest.
According to sources inside the building, the fire alarm had been set off to get everyone out of the building. BTC workers were seen gathered outside in confusion.
BCPMU officials could not be reached for comment up to press time last night.